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Mon, Jan 24, 2000 - Page 9 News List

Taiwan needs human rights laws

Taiwan's Constitution and legal system need to incorporate and reflect international standards of rights protection

By Liao Fu-te

Illustration: Yu Sha

Vice President Lien Chan (連戰) has pointed out that democracy entails the protection of human rights and said that he intends to "comprehensively introduce advanced international human rights standards" so that Taiwan will become "an advanced country from the international human rights standpoint." His comments mark the first time that a presidential candidate has brought up the subject of international human rights protection. It therefore may signify an important opportunity to introduce international human rights standards into Taiwan.

The establishment and development of international human rights law after WWII can be looked at in two ways. First, there have been numerous international agreements under the umbrella of the United Nations. Seven articles in the UN Charter touch upon the issue of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights delineates the fundamental framework of human rights. Thereafter, more than 100 agreements relating to human rights were entered into under the UN system.

Some of the more well-known agreements include the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Declaration on the Rights of Children, among others.

These various agreements have lead to the establishment of monitoring agencies to supervise the participants' implementation of duties under the agreements.

Outside the UN system, three important organizations in Europe play a critical role. The first organization is the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe which protects human rights through diplomatic channels. The second organization is the Council of Europe, which has already put in force the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom, the European Social Charter and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, among others. The third organization is the European Union (EU) which deems human rights protection principles as a general principle of law applicable to all legal litigations. All three set as a precondition for membership the adherence to human rights protection principles.

There have also been several international agreements covering other regions of the world, including the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights and the Bangkok Declaration.

The biggest milestone in regional human right laws was the establishment of regional international human right courts in Europe and America. One thing worth noting is that the scope and breadth of international human rights far exceed the extent of protection offered by the various national Constitutions.

Since 1990, many countries have begun to incorporate international human rights agreements or standards into their national Constitutions by one of the following manners:

1. Constitutions can mandate the recognition of and compliance with international human rights agreements. For example, the Constitutions of Laos and Afghanistan require the recognition and compliance with the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international human rights agreements.

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